, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 177-194

Selective mutism in children: A structural family therapy approach to treatment

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When children refuse to speak in some social settings, but can understand and speak in other settings, the diagnosis of selective mutism must be considered. A review of the literature describes the disorder, the various types of mutism, and related family dynamics. A family systems approach to treatment using structural family therapy is suggested. The case history presented illustrates one type of mutism as well as the family rules and hierarchy which appeared to be maintaining it. Structural and strategic family systems theory techniques that were used to move the family toward resolution of this problem are discussed.

Diane Wolf Tatem, MA, MS, completed graduate work in marriage and family therapy at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM. She is employed at Life Management Center of El Paso's Child Development Services and also has a private practice in marriage and family therapy in El Paso, Texas. Robert L. DelCampo, PhD is a professor of family science at New Mexico State University and maintains a private practice with Associates for Marriage and Family Therapy in Las Cruces, NM. Please address all correspondence to Dr. DelCampo at Box 3470, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, 88003-3470.
Appreciation is expressed to Dr. Charles Huber, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, for his insightful critique of the final draft of this paper. This paper was presented at the Texas Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Annual Conference, January 25–29, 1995 in Dallas, TX.